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House, Senate GOP incumbents survive Tuesday primaries

Trump and his rivals remain at odds, and some GOP forces are trying to figure out a way to block Trump's nomination

House and Senate Republicans worried about the effects of a possible Donald Trump nomination on down-ballot races may have found a glimmer of hope on Super Tuesday.

Though anti-establishment sentiment helped propel Trump to victories in seven states Tuesday night, that same dynamic did not seem to affect House and Senate incumbents, whom succeeded in fighting off primary challengers in all the major races.

On the Senate level, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby managed to avoid a runoff in a five-way Republican primary to hold onto his seat. With all ballots counted, Shelby won with 65 percent of the vote--well above the 50-percent threshold necessary to win the primary outright.

Shelby's strongest challenger, former Marine Jonathan McConnell, received 28 percent of the vote. McConnell had worked to tie himself with Trump, campaigning last weekend adjacent to Trump's rally in Madison, Ala in the hopes of winning over his supporters.

Still, it appears that many of the state's GOP voters who backed Trump in the presidential primary --Trump won the state with 43 percent of the vote -- supported Shelby over his challengers. ("There's not a problem with Shelby," one Trump voter, Johnny Wisdom, told the Montgomery Advertiser.) And fellow Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who endorsed Trump shortly before the primary, also backed Shelby.

Another incumbent victory was Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who faced a competitive primary challenge from businessman Russ Ramsland but avoided a runoff Tuesday night.

After the rise of the tea party led to a series of tough intra-party battles that ousted incumbent senators and congressmen in 2010 and 2012, some Republicans worried Trump would have a similar effect in 2016 and make previously noncompetitive GOP primaries more heated. If Tuesday's results are any indication, that scenario now seems less likely.

Other GOP incumbents who won competitive primaries were Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, who won her primary with 66 percent of the vote; Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne, who won his with 60 percent; and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, who narrowly avoided a runoff by garnering 53 percent of the vote in his district.